Sitting down with Peter Putnam the week of the 2008 NPC Nationals

November 17, 2008

by Julian Schmidt


If character is best forged in the fires of envy, Peter Putnam will emerge from the green billows of that battle proudly brandishing his pro card.

Putnam has been flirting with professional status for two years: in 2006, as the runner-up in the light-heavyweight class at the NPC USA Championships; and in 2007, by winning his class at the USAs and taking second at the Nationals. That record makes him both the statistical and logical favorite to again win his class when he returns to the national stage for this weekend’s NPC Nationals, in Atlanta, Georgia. With less than five days to go, Flexonline pinned down Putnam to discern how he is facing his fate, whatever it may be.

WHAT: 2008 NPC National Bodybuilding and Figure Championships
WHERE: The Hyatt Regency Hotel, Atlanta GA
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, November 21-22

FLEX: How are you handling the pressure to win your pro card?
Putnam: The early exposure I was afforded after my runner-up position the first time I competed in the U.S.A. Championships really put me on the map, so I’ve had nothing but pressure since. I’m expected to hit it out of the park every time. I’m under everyone’s microscope whenever I walk out on stage, so I have to produce. However, I feel I’m blessed to be afforded these opportunities; besides, I don’t know how much longer these opportunities will persist.

Peter Putnam winning the light-heavyweight class at the 2007 NPC USAs

FLEX: How do you generate your mental toughness?
Putnam: If you spend time worrying about other people and having pity-parties for yourself, then you’re not spending enough time worrying about the one thing that matters the most, and that is yourself and doing whatever it is to better yourself.

FLEX: Do you think you’re past due for a victory that would net you a pro card, or weren’t you ready?
Putnam: If the USA Championships were a show in which every class winner would obtain a pro card, I would be a pro, based on my ’07 championship.

FLEX: Could you have progressed faster?
Putnam: If I could have had more guidance in nutrition and training, I could have been where I am today when I was 26, instead of 32. But that’s okay. I don’t look at that time as having been wasted, because it refined my character, and that’s my greatest asset.

FLEX: Do you think you are the number one amateur bodybuilder?
Putnam: I might be the most recognizable and popular amateur, but I don’t know if I have the best physique. I don’t want people to think I’m getting too big for my britches, but if you go by my track record, I suppose you could say yes. Because of my visibility, some think I’m going to win because of favoritism. That’s absolute nonsense. If that held, I’d have had a pro card last year.

Placing second in the light heavies at the 2007 Nationals

FLEX: What areas of your body have you improved over the past year?
Putnam: My shoulders. Since I began bodybuilding, I’ve tinkered and experimented with my shoulder training to get good, capped-off delts, and they now square off and pop out when I flex them. That gives me more of a taper. My back is also constantly improving, and I will never rest; I will be working on it for the next 10 years. Charles Glass looked at it about 10 weeks out, and he said it’s very thick and muscular but that I need more upper-back detail. I’ve added more of those exercises, and it’s improving constantly.

FLEX: Any inspirational people in your life?
Putnam: I was inspired by the words of Paul Hewson, known as Bono, of U2, who said that when you’re 16, you think you can take on the world, and sometimes you’re right – as when four guys from Dublin, Ireland, started out as teenagers and are now selling out stadiums. It was the notion that you can aspire to greatness. To me, that was a powerful thought. Here I was, from the little town of Dalton, Georgia, with no known bodybuilders, and I dreamed of making it as one. I then saw Dorian Yates, read his life story and identified with that. I was desperate to better myself. There’s nothing wrong with normalcy, but there’s nothing scarier than mediocrity. Dorian, who went from Birmingham, England, to Mr. Olympia and the covers of FLEX magazine, made me want to see just how far I could take myself. I used to walk around my town and listen to everyone talk about what great football players they were, and it occurred to me that, at age 20, they were has-beens. I was scared to death of being a has-been.

FLEX: Now, the what-if question: What if you win, and what if you do not win at the Nationals?
Putnam: Getting my pro card would only be the first stage of my career. When I started bodybuilding, I had only one goal, and that was to become a pro. I had no idea I’d be on the cover of FLEX, or be featured in MUSCLE & FITNESS, or be featured regularly in magazines, let alone be a Weider athlete. That was beyond my dreams. Now that I’ve been blessed with those opportunities, I will do my best to never, ever disappoint, and I will burn the midnight oil to become a worthy ambassador and spokesman for the sport.

On the cover of the July 2007 issue of FLEX

FLEX: You’ve already done that, without having a pro card.
Putnam: But I don’t want my legacy to go down as someone who was a great amateur but who never materialized into a solid pro.

FLEX: What if you don’t make it this time?
Putnam: I’ll plug ahead and do my best to keep improving. I just hope my fans and all those who have given me opportunities will have my back, because I will always be loyal to them. I guarantee I will not go anywhere. Everybody wants to see the guy who’s on top fail. That’s human nature. But I’d rather be in that situation than be someone who’s off the map. Even when I was off the map, I never hated anybody. Instead, I wondered, What makes this guy good? Everyone has a story, and everyone at the Nationals is working very, very hard, so I don’t deserve anything. I’m going there to earn my pro card.